Who pays for Social Media?

Chris Brogan dropped this line in his post today and it really got me thinking that while he may get Social Media, he probably doesn’t really get business or ROI.

People appreciate the human touch of reaching someone online and having a ‘real’ interaction. It might cost a little more, but it really shows a different level of care and service.

It actually might cost a LOT more, not a little more. Lines in, extra bandwidth, routers, servers, people to man the phones at all hours that customers expect, heat, space, computers, etc. I know you can get creative with flex time, Skype and a bunch of free things out there, but are you in business or not?

If you are Dominos, you are probably now convinced that you need to monitor the social media heavily. Where does the money to do it come from? You could argue that an investment is needed to prevent the loss of value, but that is an argument of diminishing returns. You either increase revenue or decrease costs. Can you raise the price of your pizza? Oh-oh, another twitterstorm brewing!! How about shaving off .5oz of cheese per pie? Whoa! Twitterstorm #dpzinfofail.

But these are the real business decisions companies make all the time. And, they don’t just “might cost a little more,” they DO cost a LOT more.

We have created a 24/7 access culture and there will always be more customers than employees who can respond. Size does not matter as the ratio of folks who “need” access will almost always be the same.

The only formula that makes sense is: If I engage in social media, I will increase profits. You may get there by knowing more about your industry faster than your competitors or acting on a consumer trend faster, but your goal should always be increasing profits. Engaging in social media to “protect your brand” is a loser’s game.

What would happen if you just shut off Twitter, quit blogging and not update your Facebook page? Would an eventual Twitterstorm put you out of business? Do you really need to be engaged in all the chatter and buzz about your brand and company?

I think maybe not. But, like most people in business, I worry about becoming obsolete and irrelevant. I do not want to be the last buggy whip maker in my industry. And so I watch the Twitter stream, I have Google alerts on my brands and company. I wake up extra early to be able to write and publish a blog post here where you can read what I think and why. The next blog post is always swirling around in my head, connecting a general concept to something specific with my company or brands.

Social media is here to stay and has already changed the business landscape for companies and their brands. To not have a strategy is probably not a smart thing, because nobody wants to be the next Dominos.

But someone will eventually have to pay for the “right” to be paid attention to. The costs will be passed on to the customer eventually, either in increased prices or decreased features/services in some other area.

When Twitterstorming has become passé and the social mediaists have moved on to something shinier, prices will increase and features will disappear. And anybody “whining” about it will not be able to get any attention, on Twitter or anywhere else.